>I’m reading (listening to) Lisa Scottoline’s latest Bennie Rosato mystery, Think Twice. It’s too preposterous for its own good (Bennie’s evil identical twin Alice buries alive and then impersonates our heroine), but like many a mediocre book it makes me think about how good books get written. My first question is about suspense, and I’m hoping Nancy Werlin is reading. How does a writer judge just how long a suspense element can be, uh, suspended, without irritating the reader? Part of the task, I imagine, is to keep the suspense credible–how long can Alice impersonate Bennie without someone catching on?–but another part is keeping the reader from losing patience and skipping to the end or tossing the book aside. When does a writer know she’s hit the sweet spot of resolution, not too soon, not too late?
My other question is for readers and has to do with series books–Think Twice is something like Scottoline’s tenth book about Bennie and her all-lady law firm. When we’ve been following a series, what does it take to make us give up? I think we forgive weak elements or even weak entire entries because we feel invested in the characters, and there is no question I’ll finish Think Twice and eagerly anticipate the next one. But sometimes it can take just one book, bad in some unforgivable way, to make me swear off a series forever and never look back. I dumped Faye Kellerman’s Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series when one of them seemed pruriently violent to me. I dropped Jon Land’s books about the American and Israeli detective team when he put his heroine on an iceberg parked in the Red Sea. But is it that the author has made a fatal mistake, or that he hadn’t really had me hooked in the first place?